What, no Bridge!

A while ago I realized I was falling into a rut using the same song form over and over again.  It was making my songs feel the same, even though they are quite varied in other ways.  So I decided to try to mix things up force myself to write a few songs that don’t have a ‘bridge’.   The bridge is the part in a song that usually comes after the second chorus, and breaks up the repetition caused by alternating between a verse and chorus.

The form I was stuck in went something like this:

Intro — Verse 1 — Chorus — Verse 2 — Chorus — Bridge  — Chorus — Coda (outro)

I was varying that structure a little bit, but essentially my songs all had verses where the lyrics change a lot, a chorus where the lyrics are pretty much the same each time, and a bridge that has a different feel and lyrically ‘sums up’ the song.

I was encouraged by the number of songs that do not have a bridge – the entire catalog of 12-bar blues, for example.  Man of Constant Sorrow is another example I like.  And I was pretty sure that even if I failed miserably, nobody would be permanently injured.  So with that positive attitude I dove in!

My first thought was to add more variety to the verses and chorus by adding or removing lines each time around and maybe changing the melody a little. There are a lot of other things I could do as well – vary the tone by changing the instruments or rhythm.  Add in a guitar solo, or change the rhyming pattern to name a few.

The first song In my experiment is called ‘Baby Don’t You Worry’ and is for a musical I am working on.  The story behind the song is a homeless mother singing her child to sleep on their first night living on the street.  It’s a real toe tapper… not!  Because it is a lullaby, I felt I could get away with fewer sections.

In the end I’m not sure whether I eliminated the bridge or the chorus, but I definitely got rid of something.  The song is structured like this:

Intro – Verse 1 – Verse 2 – Bridge/Chorus – Verse 3 (instrumental except for last line) – Verse 4

or, in more music theory terms: A A B A A

Pretty simple and repetitive, to be sure.

When I first played it for people, they noticed the repetition of the verses.  The ‘B’ theme and mostly instrumental 3rd verse weren’t offering quite enough variety.  They also noticed what a terrible singer I am and that I am not female, so I asked Kat Sylvan to sing it for me.  Even with her wonderful vocal, the structure wasn’t working!  The song is a lullaby, but I don’t actually want to bore my listeners into a coma. What to do? In the end all I did was dropped out most of the accompaniment in the final verse to give the vocal a very intimate feel.  That worked well for what I wanted to accomplish with this song, so I stopped there.

Taking risks and trying new things is part of songwriting.   Sometimes the ideas work, sometimes they don’t and you move on.  You can decide for yourself which way you feel about this song:

Please leave your comments – good or bad – below.

Next up I will discuss ‘Take me Down’, where I went further into varying the melody, vocal harmonies and orchestration to get some thing with more variety, but still fewer sets of chord changes.





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